April 3, 1996Governor Bob Miller
Dear Governor Miller:
In a phone conversation with Richard Urey this afternoon, I requested copies of any and all correspondence between your office and the 20th Century Fox movie studio regarding the E.T. Highway and its unveiling. The purpose of this request was to determine what agreements and understandings have been entered into between Fox and the state, as represented by your office. Mr. Urey denied this request, saying that the public is not entitled to the personal correspondence of the governor.
As a Nevada citizen, I am writing now to request the legal grounds for this denial and to repeat the request. I believe that NRS mandates this release, but even if you feel otherwise I think it would still be wise to release these documents on your own discretion. This would help clear up the charge that you negotiated secretly with Fox regarding the E.T. Highway events.
After my phone call to Mr. Urey, I looked up Nevada's public records law, NRS 239.010. I have reviewed the annotations and have been unable to find any legal exemption for executive correspondence. If I am overlooking a legal case or ruling, would you kindly provide it for me. Otherwise, the clear intent of NRS 239.010 is that any documentation, if produced in the course of official state duties, should be available to any citizen who asks.
It is a fundamental principal of democracy that the workings of government should be open to any interested citizen. Elected officials of the state cannot invoke a "right of privacy" regarding actions taken on behalf of the state or for documents produced in the course of official duties. If your office has entered into any agreement with Fox, written or verbal, Nevada citizens have the right to know its details and circumstances from whatever evidence is available. The content of official correspondence has significant bearing on whether or not a conflict of interest has taken place or whether an official has acted outside the bounds of his proper authority. If, on the other hand, this correspondence is benign, then releasing it would help clear up any suggestion of impropriety.
My inquiry is not trivial. It cuts to the heart of government accountability. In this case, it appears that you negotiated your E.T. Highway plans in secret with an out-of-state movie company but never consulted with the residents and officials of the Nevada county that is most affected. In short, you never asked the people of Lincoln County whether they wanted an E.T. Highway. You imposed it from Carson City after consulting only an "Alien Ambassador" and a single local business. It also appears that local residents and officials were not consulted in the planning process for the unveiling. Instead of soliciting the views of your own constituents most affected by this event, you negotiated with a movie company that is not your constituent and that has no legitimate interest in the E.T. Highway beyond its unveiling.
On March 22, your office issued a joint press release with Fox regarding the unveiling. This would seem highly irregular, because it is not often that a governor or state agency promotes a commercial movie. (Personally, I know of no other case.) Governors often do promote movie filming locations within their state, but that does not apply here, since no significant part of "Independence Day" was filmed in Nevada.
As a concerned Nevada citizen, I want to know the content of any agreements and dealings, written or verbal, between the state and Fox which lie behind your March 22 press release. Obtaining copies of all written correspondence between your administration and Fox would be a first step toward determining the facts and clearing up the mystery of your dealings with this commercial establishment. Please note that, at present, I am requesting only existing documents that should be easily obtained from your files; I am not asking that you to create any new document in response to this request. I also agree to pay, if asked, any reasonable costs involved in fulfilling this request.
If, on the other hand, you do not release this correspondence, then you are saying that these documents are secret--like the base at Area 51. You would be saying, in effect, that the citizens of Nevada have no right to know what agreements you have entered into on their behalf and that they have no right to understand or question your official actions.
I hope you will give this matter thoughtful consideration, and I look forward to your reply as soon as possible. A faxed reply would be appreciated.
Area 51 Research Center
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